Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

The year 2016 was described as "an impressive yet challenging one for Caribbean tourism" by Caribbean Tourism Organization secretary-general Hugh Riley in his year-end message.

"We have seen a rise in tourist arrivals when compared to our record year in 2015, fueled by strong performances in Europe, mainly the U.K. and Germany, and from the U.S," Riley said. "We are poised to meet the 30 million arrivals target set in 2014 at our State of the Tourism Industry Conference in the U.S. Virgin Islands."

The Caribbean recorded 28.7 million visitors in 2015.

The Canadian market's declining numbers, sparked by the weakening of the Canadian dollar, has caused concern, although the CTO hopes to reverse that slide in 2017 with new travel agent training and certification, more focus on the Caribbean diaspora and development of business in nontraditional Canadian markets.

Based on data compiled by STR, Caribbean hoteliers were challenged by slumps in key performance metrics in the first six months, due to a rise in room stock and a fall in demand for traditional hotel rooms attributed in part to the sharing economy, according to Riley.

And Mother Nature challenged the region in the form of hurricanes.

"Despite this, our resilience and fortitude as a region stood out, and even the worst affected were back open for business in quick time, proving that tourism is an effective way to re-energize an economy following a natural or other disaster," Riley said.

The onset of the Zika virus presented yet another challenge. The CTO continues to work with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Caribbean Public Health Agency to address concerns raised by suppliers and potential visitors.

The CTO continues to monitor the possible impact of the Brexit vote as the U.K. moves to end its membership in the European Union. "Developments in the U.S., too, are occupying our focused attention, as the U.S. market is the primary supplier of our visitors," Riley said.

The Year of Adventure

2016 had been dubbed the Year of Romance with member countries and industry partners organizing events and roadshows specializing in romance, including a social media marathon in June and ending with the Ultimate Jamaican Dream Wedding in collaboration with romance partner MarryCaribbean.com.

And 2017 "will be the Year of Adventure in the Caribbean," Riley said.  "Adventure and Caribbean travel go perfectly together, whether through zip lining high above a valley, speeding around a racing circuit, rafting down a river, exploring local communities or teasing the senses with new cultural and culinary experiences.

"The spirit of adventure lives in all of us and in every member country of the CTO."

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